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ASD eyes October return for elementary students

School district to make official announcement on Sept. 15
Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 11:14 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District is preparing to bring students back to the classrooms in the middle of October, starting with elementary students.

ASD’s risk level criteria can be found here.

“From day one my belief is that our children, especially our youngest children should be back in our classes,” ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop said. “The best way to learn is face-to-face.”

Although an official announcement will not be made until next week, all indications point to the school district moving forward with the plan to return students to the buildings. This was further evidenced on Friday morning during the joint meeting between the school board and Anchorage Assembly.

“We again do look to transition into in school,” Bishop said. “We did start up sports, it’s been announced, we were in concert with city officials, state officials as well as the mayor’s office in sharing this understanding and how we would operate.”

The current average COVID-19 count for the 14-day rolling average stands at 38 for the Anchorage Municipality with the seven-day average count at 36 as of Sept. 11. ASD’s School Start Risk Level Response Plan indicates that for students to return to school on a limited basis, those numbers need to be under 29.

“We’re not going to disregard any kind of warnings or any kind of data, however, we will follow the science, we will follow the math, they are trending down, we are happy to see that,” Bishop said. “Especially the last couple of days, let’s continue on this trail and get our students back in school.”

If ASD announces the plan to move forward, it would give the district a full month to prepare. It also will help parents adjust their daily calendars.

Bishop says over the next four weeks, there will be a series of trainings and workshops that principals will work on with teachers to ensure everyone has the confidence to return to the classrooms with the utmost safety in mind.

ASD Chief Operating Officer Tom Roth says the school district has been following how the Matanuska-Susitna School District is operating. He says if ASD does indeed plan to move forward with the return to school, it’s full steam ahead. Roth says the impact of the young students missing out on in-class instruction is too high to ignore.

“We’re committed and we’re going to run hard based on the superintendent’s plan that we are going to, we’re going to be there, we’re going to do it,” Roth said.

ASD is looking at students returning in phases, with elementary and special needs students starting first.

Pre-K through sixth-grade students would start the second quarter in the classroom. Students would attend school five days a week. Middle schoolers could follow a couple of weeks after or midway through the quarter. Roth says it’s safe to say that high schoolers more than likely would not return to school until sometime after the second quarter, perhaps on Jan. 4 when the third quarter begins.

“Our primary concern truly is our primary children Pre-K through third grade because those children are, again, they learn to read for the rest of their lives,” Bishop said. “We can not miss that opportunity for them to gain the skills they’ll need for a lifetime.”

Bishop says all students would be required to wear masks during the school day. Students would also stay in their classrooms.

Next week’s formal announcement will address the protocol’s moving forward, the plan and timing returns for elementary, middle school and high school students. It will also address the plan for special needs students, busing and meal distribution.

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